There is some question as to whether or not Brandon Hogan will be playing this Saturday night against LSU. Bill Stewart alluded to the possibility in a press conference yesterday. The issue? Hogan was indefinitely suspended a few weeks ago after getting arrested for driving under the influence.
Indefinite suspensions, which is what Hogan was given at the time of the arrest, tend to involve more than a single game spent on the sidelines, which is where Hogan was last Saturday when WVU was busy beating Maryland. While on the sidelines, he no doubt witnessed WVU’s pass defense getting shredded by Maryland’s best receiver, a receiver who Hogan would have been guarding had he been sensible enough not to get drunk without a way to get home other than his own vehicle. So the issue has become not one of Hogan’s irresponsibility - something that he definitely was - but Bill Stewart’s curious definition of indefinite suspension.
There are two different strategies one can take when writing about something like this. Let’s try both:
I am shocked, shocked I tell you, to discover that a college coach would be willing to ignore a player’s criminal activities if it means even only a scintilla of a better chance against a hostile opponent in that opponent’s own stadium! Rest assured that the West Virginia University Football Program has sunk to a new, even lower depth than ever previously imagined. Great coaches of old - men like Bobby Bowden and Don Nehlen - would never have tolerated behavior like Hogan’s. He would have been dismissed from the team immediately and his name removed from the record books. Anybody who believed that Stewart would take us back to an era of coaches we could be proud of us as fans must surely be disappointed on this today, what with these blatant machinations!
College coaches are paid to win football games. You do that by fielding the best possible team, alleged criminal behavior be damned. Bill Stewart would be irresponsible to hold out a player who could potentially help WVU to win a huge game against LSU, both to himself professionally and to fans with expectations. And anybody who steadfastly believes that precisely this sort of thing wasn’t happening years ago is lying to themselves. Don Nehlen’s assistants used to approach professors about changing grades if it meant keeping a player on the field. No doubt worse was excused, ignored, and otherwise brushed aside in the pursuit of victories. Let’s not waste time pretending that college football is anything other than what it is: a cold-blooded business.
Isn’t the answer somewhere between those two equally correct extremes? Yes, it is shameful that Stewart might consider rescinding Hogan’s suspension not because of anything he actually did, but because Pat Miller looks to be about as effective as covering wide-receivers as this site is at generating traffic. (Editor’s Note: This site generates no traffic.) But from Stewart’s perspective, what’s necessarily important to moralizers isn’t what’s important to him. He’s paid to win games and doing that means Hogan has to play, bad behavior be damned.
Hate to say it, but if the blame falls anywhere, it falls on those who prioritize victories over everything else, be them administrators, coaches, players, the media, or fans. Frankly, there are equal numbers of all groups who fall into the Shocked and But Really camps. It’s that addiction to winning, something to be done at all costs, that produces these sorts of situations when they emerge.